Recently, I posted the first installment of an updated, more comprehensive tutorial for using the popular Polish vital records database, Geneteka. In that post, I provided an introduction to Geneteka, a walk through the search interface, and some information about how Geneteka’s search algorithms work. The second installment, posted two days ago, included information on searching with two surnames, using the infodots in the “Remarks/Uwagi” column, searching within a specified parish, using the “Parish records collection/Katalog Zasobów Metrykalnych” link, and using the “Relationship search/Wyszukaj jako para.” In today’s final installment, I’ll discuss the last two search options, “Skip search in parents’ column/Nie wyszukuj w rodzicach,” and “Exact search/Wyszukiwanie dokładne.” Then we’ll get into the various options for finding scans, based on the repository to which the “skan” button is linked.
Using “Skip search in parents’ column/Nie wyszukuj w rodzicach”
As we’ve already observed, Geneteka’s default search algorithm will return results in which the target search names appear in any field. In many cases, such a broad search is undesirable. For example, if I want to find a death record for my great-great-grandmother, Antonina Zarzycka, some time after 1904, but I have no idea where she died, I’m not interested in all the results that crop up that mention Antonina as the mother of the deceased, or the mother’s maiden name of the deceased, as shown below.
Maybe I don’t know her mother’s maiden name, so I can’t narrow the search that way. However, I can still eliminate a lot of the extraneous results by selecting, “Skip search in parents’ column/Nie wyszukuj w rodzicach.” When I repeat the search that way, the results include only birth and death records for women named Antonina Zarzycka, and marriage records for brides with that name. Shown below are the results for death records which were returned using these search parameters.
Note that this is an example of one of those situations alluded to previously, where an infodot is found next to a name. In this case, it alerts us to the fact that Antonina Zarzycka was known by another name (her maiden name), Marczewska.
Using “Exact Search”
As mentioned earlier, Geneteka’s search algorithms are flexible and powerful, allowing for a fair degree of phonetic latitude with the results that are returned for a target surname. Since the search engine is so flexible, you might think that results will include pretty much every surname that contains the same etymological root as the target name. For example, there are quite a few patronymic surnames which derive from the given name “Grzegorz,” including my great-grandmother’s maiden name, Grzesiak. But although a search for “Grzesiak” turns up variants such as Grzesiek, Grzesik, Grzeszyk, Grzech, and Grusiak, there are still variants under which I’ve found records for my family which did not turn up in a basic search. Such variants include Grześczak, Grzesczak, Grzeszczak, and even Grześkiewicz. (Those old priests got really creative sometimes!)
This is where Geneteka’s wildcard search feature comes in handy. If I do a search for “Grze*,” the results include all surnames that begin with “Grze” exactly — again, without taking diacritics into consideration. Therefore results include surnames that start with Grze- as well as surnames that start with Grzę-. (Theoretically, at least, results would also include surnames that start with Grże- or Grźe-.) Obviously, this approach will generate a large number of search hits, so it’s best to narrow the search in other ways (e.g. specifying a range of years, a given name, etc.) if you’re going to use the wildcard option.
In my own research, this wildcard search proved to be especially effective when I was searching for records for my Ciećwierz family. Antonina Ciećwierz and Michał Zieliński were my great-great-great-grandparents. Antonina’s 1897 death record reported her parents’ names as Jan and Katarzyna Ciećwierz, and I began to accumulate evidence that the family was originally from the nearby village of Mikołajew, before they moved to Mistrzewice. Unfortunately, a marriage record for Jan and Katarzyna was elusive. I searched within a 15-km radius of Mikołajew for paired names (1) Jan Ciećwierz, and (2) Katarzyna, no maiden name specified, and obtained the following result:
The search produced marriage records for several of Jan and Katarzyna’s children: Józefa in 1871, Antonina in 1873, Stanisław in 1878, and Joanna in 1879. Moreover, the results suggested that Katarzyna’s maiden name was Grzelak. Yet there was no marriage record for Jan and Katarzyna themselves. So how can we tease it out of the database? This is where the exact search comes in handy. When the search was repeated using “Cie*” instead of “Ciećwierz,” their marriage record was discovered.
In addition to simple wildcard searches like this one, Geneteka also permits wildcard searches for both surname fields. For example, I recently assisted someone who was seeking the marriage of Piotr Wąszewski and Marianna Pacewicz in Drozdowo parish. The record was a bit elusive, and the year of the event was uncertain. I finally discovered it by using wildcards in both fields.
The marriage in 1862 for Piotr “Wąswski” and Maryanna Pancier may, in fact, be the correct record, as the year is in the right ballpark, and Pancier is not too far a stretch from Pancewicz. Obviously, further research is needed, but the indexed records in Geneteka have certainly helped get this research off to a good start. Notice also that I did not check the box for “exact search.” This may be a recent change in the search engine, but I was surprised to note that the results were the same whether or not that box was checked. It may be that the presence of an asterisk in the surname field works the same way as checking the box. There is also the possibility of performing a wildcard search in both the surname and given name fields. So for example, if I want to find all birth records for children with surnames similar to Wąsewski and first initial J, the search result looks like this:
For kicks, I even tested it with wildcards in all four fields. It still worked, as in the example shown below which shows a search in all of Mazowieckie province for couples (“searching as a pair”) in which one partner was named “J. Was*” and the other had initials “T. N.” In practice, I don’t know that there would be too many circumstances where you would need to search for people only by their initials, but it’s impressive that Geneteka offers this as an option.
You may have guessed by now that even though this is called an “exact” search, diacritics still don’t matter, so a search for “Was*” is the same as a search for “Wąs*”. Notice that the exact search can also be used to make your results gender-specific, should you wish to do so, in the case of surnames which exhibit gender, . For example, a search for “Zielinski” with the “exact search” box checked will return results for the masculine version of the surname only.
Of course, as soon as you enter a given name, you will make the results gender-specific, as well. Finally, the Exact search can also be used to eliminate all the phonetic variants that are included in a standard search, which could be helpful with a surname like Zieliński if you’re fairly certain it was not likely to have been recorded in some other way.
Locating Scans in Geneteka
Let’s move on now and discuss the process of obtaining scans when this option is available. At first, it seems like it should be pretty straightforward: click the button, and it takes you to the scan, right? Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. There are a number of repositories for scans that are currently linked to indexes in Geneteka, depending on the geographic area. Some of the less common repositories I’ve discovered have been indexed records from Ukraine that are linked to scans in AGAD (the Archiwum Główne Akt Dawnych in Warsaw), and indexed records from Wielkopolskie province that are linked to pdf files a from Polish digital library (in this case, the Biblioteka Cyfrowa Regionalia Ziemi Łódzkiej), but you may find examples of other less common repositories. In most cases, however, indexes are linked to scans found in one of three places: Metryki, Szukajwarchiwach, and FamilySearch.
Finding scans linked to FamilySearch
With all of these examples, your mileage may vary. Sometimes, the scan button takes you right to the page with the proper image. Other times, you may have to work a bit harder. Here’s an example of an indexed entry in Geneteka that has a Skan button linked to a collection of digital images in FamilySearch.
When we click “Skan,” it takes us to FamilySearch’s collection entitled Lublin, Roman Catholic Church Books, 1784-1964. Moreover, we can see from the heading that we’re looking at records from Boby parish, and specifically, the book, Births (Akta urodzeń) 1844-1866.
So far, so good. If we go back to the indexed entry in Geneteka, we can see that the birth record for Józef Nowak was from 1854, record #7. So what we have to do at this point is scroll through the images until we find the right record. Less than 5 minutes later, I’m looking at this:
Although it’s not circled in this image, you can see the download button (between “print” and “tools”) near the top right corner of the screen. Obviously, I didn’t have to go through 110 pages of images individually in order to find this. The little tool bar on the side (circled in red on the image below) is invaluable here — especially that icon of the rows of dots, which allows you to zoom out and view a gallery of thumbnail images.
Here’s the zoomed view:
It’s fairly quick work to click on an image, read the date to see what year we’re in, and then repeat that process until we get to the records from 1854. One word of caution is that records from this part of Poland will be in Polish (we’re researching Polish ancestors, after all!) so the dates will all be spelled out in writing rather than in numerals. There are a lot of great online resources to help you find your way, however, including all the Polish translation aids in this document. (Polish numbers can be found here.)
Finding Scans Linked to Metryki
Let’s say I want to find the scan for this record, the marriage of Zygmunt Zarzycki and Henryka Kurkiewicz which took place in Warsaw in 1929. Once again, we’re going to hit the “skan” button, but this time, it takes us to a collection of digital images found in Geneteka’s sister site, Metryki.
Metryki is another effort sponsored by volunteers from the PTG, and I discussed previously how to use it directly, without going through Geneteka. (It’s always a good idea to check there for your parishes, because sometimes it happens that there are collections of scans found in Metryki for which there are no indexes in Geneteka, or the range of years covered differs between the two sites.) In this case, however, we’re just following the link from Geneteka, so what we see is this:
Even if you’re not comfortable with Polish, resist the temptation to click that American/British flag icon at the top, because clicking that will take you back to Metryki’s home page, and you don’t want that. Instead, realize that you don’t need much Polish to figure out what’s going on here. The bit highlighted in red at the top tells you what it is you’re looking at: Metrical books of the Roman Catholic parish of All Saints in Warsaw. You can copy and paste that line into Google Translate if you want to. The next line tells us that we’re looking at the book of marriages from 1929 for this parish. All the numbers you see in blue in rows beneath that heading are the file numbers for images from this book. Since the entry in Geneteka told us that Zygmunt and Henryka’s marriage was record number 525, we want to find the file that contains that number, which is underlined in red in the image above. When we click that link, we’re on the page with the marriage record.
The groom’s name is underlined here in red. Again, you don’t need much Polish to navigate the page, but it helps to know that “Powiększ” is the “zoom-in” button to enlarge the text, and “Pomniejsz” is the “zoom-out” button to shrink the page. The “floppy disk” icon, circled in red, will allow you to download a copy of the image.
Finding scans linked to Szukajwarchiwach
For our final example, we’ll take a look at how to find scans in the Polish State Archives database, Szukajwarchiwach. We’ll start with this indexed entry from Geneteka for the marriage of Stanisław Grzesiak and Jadwiga Dąbro(w)ska.
When we click “skan,” we find ourselves on this page from Szukajwarchiwach:
The first thing we want to do is to get oriented to the page. The top section, boxed in red, identifies the collection we’re looking at: Civil records from the Roman Catholic parish of Kowalewo-Opactwo in Słupca County, which is where we want to be. Note that we’re not just looking at a book of births, as we were in the previous FamilySearch example. We’re looking at “Akta urodzonych, małżeństw i zgonów,” which means we’ve got birth, marriage and death records, all in the same book. The “dates” section, further down the page, notes that we’re in the year 1832, which confirms that the link from Geneteka took us to the right place. The indexed entry in Geneteka noted that Stanisław and Jadwiga were married in 1832, but in this case, the record number is not noted. That means we have to first find the marriage index for 1832, then find the record number, then find the record itself. Let’s jump in!
Immediately to the right of that large, red arrow in the image above (the one with all the numbers on it), it says, “Digital copies .” That’s what we need to click to get started. That brings us to this page of thumbnail images. The very first thing I usually do is switch the number of scans per page from the default 15 up to 100 to save time.
However, that’s less important in this case because it’s a small parish and the entire book from 1832 only covers 27 digital images. The parish of Kowalewo was in Russian Poland, and books from that part of Poland are usually laid out with births in chronological order, then an alphabetical birth index, created by the priest at the end of the year. This was followed by marriage records, in chronological order, and a marriage index, and finally by death records and a death index. Normally, when looking for a marriage record, we need to skip past the births and the birth index, and then it’s easy to spot the marriage records just from the thumbnails, since these records are typically twice as long as the births or deaths. In this particular example, it’s a small parish and a short book, so there is no marriage index — we just need to skim through each record until we spot the names we’re looking for. We can see from the thumbnails that marriage records start on image 10. When we click the image, we see this:
The button marked in red will allow you to expand the image so it’s readable. When you do that, you come to this page, where you have some tools to adjust brightness, contrast, and magnification. You can navigate through the images using the “previous” and “next” links. To move around the page, click and drag the gray box marked with the red arrow in the image below.
After flipping through a few images, we arrive at image 15, which contains the marriage record for Stanisław Grzesiak and Jadwiga Dąbroska. To download a copy, scroll all the way to the bottom of the page, where the download link appears.
That’s pretty much all there is to finding digital images in Geneteka. While it does take a bit of patience and perseverance, and some scans are definitely easier to access than others, it’s still a great finding aid, especially for researchers who might be unaware of the existence of scans for their parish of interest.
That brings us to the end of this tutorial series. I hope it’s helped to give you a better understanding of how Geneteka works so that you’re able to use it more effectively for your research in Polish records. Geneteka is truly a phenomenal resource that’s revolutionized the field of Polish genealogy. Thanks to its tremendous power and the wonderfully flexible search interface, we can find Polish vital records more quickly and easily than ever before, even for those ancestors who were especially mobile. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments. Even better, if you find you use Geneteka, and you’re able to make a donation to help keep this project going, please click here. Thank you!
© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz